A cute movie for kids and not much else, A Dog’s Way Home may be easily forgotten in the years to come. A film in the same vein of 1993’s “Homeward Bound”, A Dog’s Way Home follows the 400-mile journey of a pit bull mix, Bella (Bryce Dallas Howard), and all of the wild situations she finds herself in. Director Charles Martin Smith relies on the human connection to man’s best friend to garner any real emotion and runs through the checklist of clichés that one would expect.
Rescued by her “human”, Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King), Bella was in love. She finally had a forever home, with a loving family and a multitude of games to play. Unfortunately, pit bulls are illegal in Denver city limits, so Lucas sends Bella to live with a family friend, while he locks down a new place to live. Scared and confused in her new environment, Bella decides to play “go home” and find Lucas. As she hops the fence and starts the long trek towards Denver, Bella embarks on a journey that will have her meeting new dogs, new humans and new cats to take care of.
Bryce Dallas Howard manages to give Bella a likable, and even humorous personality, but is given no support throughout the film. All communication between Bella and the audience is through her thoughts and actions, but the other animals she encounters remain silent. While putting the focus solely on Bella was definitely a conscious one, it is a head-scratching choice. For a film primarily directed at children, conversations between the various animals that meet could have gone a long way. Instead we are treated to many silent, but surprisingly sincere, relationships between characters.
A Dog’s Way Home moves fast, way too fast, and has a convoluted timeline that barely makes sense. Smith and his writing staff (W. Bruce Cameron and Cathryn Michon) make the questionable decision to expand Bella’s adventure out to a staggering two and a half years but fly through the script like she was only gone for a week. Some of this is surely due to the film being based on a book (of the same name), but the format doesn’t necessarily work when crammed into a 96-minute movie.
This film will solicit some sort of feeling from dog lovers, but that is about it. The story revolves around the invisible bond between a dog and its owner (or as Bella calls it, “the invisible leash”). That sentiment alone is enough for any dog owner to stay emotionally vested, but there is nothing here that lingers after the credits roll.
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